TOP OF THE HOUR:
—Italy passes China for most coronavirus-related deaths.
—UN Secretary-General: World "is at war with a virus.”
—Queen Elizabeth II urging British people to “work as one” to defeat virus.
ROME — Italy has become the country with the most coronavirus-related deaths, surpassing China by registering 3,405 dead.
Italy reached the gruesome milestone on the same day the epicenter of the pandemic, Wuhan, China, recorded no new infections. Overall, China on Thursday counted 3,249 dead, 156 fewer than Italy, according to the Johns Hopkins University virus map.
Both Italy’s death toll and its new infections shot up again, adding 427 more dead and 5,322 more infections. Overall, Italy has recorded 41,035 infections, more than half of the world’s positive cases.
LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II has urged British people to “work as one” to defeat the coronavirus pandemic.
In a rare first-person message, the queen acknowledged that many individuals and families “are entering a period of great concern and uncertainty.“
“At times such as these, I am reminded that our nation’s history has been forged by people and communities coming together to work as one, concentrating our combined efforts with a focus on the common goal,” she said.
The queen thanked medics, scientists and emergency workers, and said “we all have a vitally important part to play” in overcoming the pandemic.
The 93-year-old monarch and her husband Prince Philip, 98, moved to their Windsor Castle residence on Thursday. They usually spend Easter there but have gone a week early, with a slimmed-down staff, because of the outbreak.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch medical care minister has resigned, a day after slumping to the floor during a parliamentary debate about the government’s handling of the coronavirus.
The Dutch royal house announced King Willem-Alexander had accepted Bruno Bruins’ resignation. It did not give a reason for the minister leaving office.
Bruins collapsed in parliament Wednesday night and was quickly helped to his feet by a fellow Cabinet minister. He later tweeted that he felt faint due to exhaustion and was heading home to rest so he could return to work Thursday.
Bruins has been one of the busiest ministers in government as Dutch authorities attempt to rein in the spread of the coronavirus.
UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the world “is at war with a virus” and warned that “a global recession — perhaps of record dimensions — is a near certainty.”
The U.N. chief said “people are suffering, sick and scared” and stressed that current responses by individual countries will not address “the global scale and complexity of the crisis.”
“This is a moment that demands coordinated, decisive, and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies,” Guterres told reporters from U.N. headquarters. “We must recognize that the poorest countries and most vulnerable — especially women — will be the hardest hit.”
He welcomed next week’s emergency summit of leaders of the Group of 20 major economic powers to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic saying he will participate with the message that this is an unprecedented situation which requires creativity — “and the magnitude of the response must match its scale.”
BERLIN — German authorities have called off an official ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and the liberation from Nazi rule because of the coronavirus epidemic.
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was due to speak at the event in Berlin on May 8. But the interior ministry said Steinmeier has decided the event shouldn’t go ahead in the current circumstances.
The ministry said that it hasn’t yet been decided how the anniversary of Nazi Germany’s surrender will now be marked.
Russia is still planning a massive May 9 military parade on Red Square marking the 75th anniversary of the World War II victory, the nation’s most important holiday. President Vladimir Putin has invited many global leaders.
LONDON — The Church of England says couples should scale back their special day because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Britain’s state-established Protestant church says church weddings should be attended only by the couple, the officiating minister and the two witnesses required by law. New guidance issued Thursday says attendees, apart from the couple, should observe as much distance as possible.
The church suggests the ceremony could be streamed online for those unable to attend, or couples could hold a public blessing once the outbreak is over. And it acknowledges that some couples may want to postpone their wedding altogether.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams is calling on Americans, particularly the younger generation, to consider donating blood to help assist healthcare providers battling the coronavirus outbreak.
The American Red Cross announced earlier this week that it faces a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during the virus outbreak.
Adams said donating blood remains safe and blood centers are taking extra precautions based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Israelis have stepped out onto their balconies and applauded health care personnel working to stop the coronavirus pandemic.
Around the country, despite rainy weather, Israelis came out to support medical staff, taking a cue from others in Europe who are taking at least a minute each night to come together in gratitude. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, joined in on the initiative.
Israel has identified more than 500 cases of the coronavirus. As elsewhere, Israeli medical staff risk infection as they try to keep the pandemic at bay.
Spain’s government is announcing new measures to deal with a wave of more than 80 deaths and hundreds of infections with the new coronavirus reported this week in elderly nursing homes across the country.
Pablo Iglesias, deputy prime minister in charge of social affairs, said Thursday that 300 million euros (323 million dollars) will be provided for regional governments to spend on additional social workers and caretakers in homes for the elderly.
Iglesias acknowledged that workers at these facilities are “overwhelmed,” and they are lacking needed protective suits and other medical material.
Authorities in Madrid, where 40% of the country’s more than 17,000 infections have been identified, are discussing whether to bring military medics and other army resources into the region’s nursing homes.
The Ministry of Health is also drafting a new series of guidelines for nursing homes to deal with infected patients. Many hospitals are reporting to be overwhelmed to deal with the influx of COVID-19 cases.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Canada-U.S. border likely will be closed to all non-essential travel in both directions on Friday night. He says it will take "weeks to months" for social-distancing measures in his country to be lifted.
Both the U.S. and Canada have been in talks in recent days to negotiate a mutual halt to tourism and family visits but leaving the flow of trade intact. Canada relies on the U.S. for 75% of its exports and about 18% of American exports go to Canada. Much of Canada’s food supply comes from or via the U.S.
Trudeau says his government is following the advice of health experts and won’t lift restrictions on public activities and movements in Canada until it is safe to do so. Trudeau made his comments in front of his residence where he is self-isolating after his wife tested positive for the virus. Canada has about confirmed 770 cases and nine deaths.
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has discussed the coronavirus pandemic in a telephone call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
A Kremlin statement says Putin gave "a high assessment of the results achieved by the People's Republic of China and the entire Chinese people in countering the spread of the disease." The call came as the number of COVID-19 cases in Russia continues to grow, reaching 199 on Thursday. No deaths from pneumonia attributed to the disease have been reported in Russia.
MONTE CARLO, Monaco — The palace of Monaco says Prince Albert II has tested positive for the coronavirus, but says there’s little concern for his health.
In a statement, the palace says the 62-year-old is being treated by doctors from the Princess Grace Hospital, named after his U.S. actress mother.
Albert plans to continue working from his home office in the palace.
ATHENS, Greece — The government of Greece is ordering hotels to shut as part of measures to combat the spread of the new coronavirus.
The Tourism Ministry says hotels normally open year-round will shut down at midnight on the night of March 22 until the end of April to protect the health of staff.
One hotel per regional capital is allowed to remain open, along with three hotels in Athens and the country's second largest city of Thessaloniki, in northern Greece.
MOSCOW — Russian health officials say a woman in Russia reported to have died of the coronavirus actually died from a blood clot. Officials cited the results of the autopsy.
The statement brought Russia's official coronavirus death tally back to zero.
The 79-year-old woman was hospitalized last week and diagnosed with the virus. She was also suffering from multiple chronic conditions, including hypertension and heart disease. Pneumonia caused by the coronavirus was initially reported as the cause of death.
Russia has so far reported 199 cases of the virus and nine recoveries. Many in the country estimate the number is much higher, with infections going undetected as testing for the virus is not widespread.
KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaican authorities say the country has recorded its first death from the coronavirus.
The island’s health ministry says a 79-year-old man who suffered from diabetes and hypertension died Wednesday in a hospital in the capital of Kingston while being transferred from a hospital in western Jamaica. The man, who had recently returned to Jamaica from New York, visited the hospital on March 16, and was immediately isolated.
Jamaica had 15 confirmed cases of the virus and was awaiting results for six more people. There were 105 people in quarantine.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness declared the nation a “disaster area” on March 13 and suspended all non-essential activities. Citizens are being urged to work from home, groups of more than 20 are not permitted to gather and all schools have been closed for 14 days. The government has closed its cruise ship ports.
MILAN -- The head of a visiting Chinese Red Cross delegation helping Italy respond to the coronavirus crisis says people there aren’t sufficiently adhering to lockdown measures and warns the only way to stop the virus’ spread is by shutting down all economic activity.
Sun Shuopeng, executive chairman of the Red Cross Society of China.says he was shocked to see so many Milanese walking around the city, using public transportation, having dinners in hotels and not wearing protective masks.
Sun warned that Wuhan, China — the epicenter of the pandemic — only saw its infections peak after one month of a strictly enforced lockdown. He spoke on the same day that Wuhan for the first time registered no new infections. Italy is likely to overtake all of China in the number of virus-associated deaths.
BRUSSELS -- NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is urging members of the military alliance not to cut defense spending as the coronavirus hits global economies.
Stoltenberg says the armed forces are providing support to the civilian society with logistics, military hospitals and patrol borders.
U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly chastised European allies and Canada for not spending enough on defense budgets.
NATO countries slashed spending as tensions eased after the Cold War. But after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, members agreed to stop the cuts, boost defense budgets and move toward spending 2% of GDP on defense by 2024.
According to estimates in NATO’s annual report, nine countries meet the benchmark -- the U.S., Greece, Britain, Bulgaria, Estonia, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania -- up from three in 2014. Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg would spent less than 1%.
The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.